elie’s tent – victoria park
by Mei Leong
If I had told myself at the beginning of the night that I would leave with a grin, I wouldn’t have believed it. Elie’s Tent does the impossible. This restaurant turns average food with below average service, into an excellent night out every Friday and Saturday night.
The trick is to turn the dial up on the experience – that is, bring on the bellydancer!
So many things went wrong on the night, it was enough to put any smile, upside down.
Firstly, our reservation went missing (but was hastily recovered).
Secondly, the awkward L shaped table made drinks spill.
Thirdly, the food came in dribs and drabs. Our maza entrees arrived pretty quickly but everyone’s mains took ages. Plus we kept getting served dishes which we didn’t order – the waitresses had no idea which table ordered what, let alone who ordered what! It was crazy.
Eventually everyone got their mains – but the four of us who ordered the set menu (maza) were left to wait longer. We were the first to eat and last to finish. To add insult to injury, they forgot the mazas were ordered by two couples seated on opposite ends of the table and didn’t split the mazas into two.
We were asked whether we wanted it split in half..? Surely they don’t expect us to relay plates over 8 other people so we could have our dinner?
(I’m probably being a bit harsh here as there was a really large group in the restaurant but I don’t have any mercy for uncoordinated catering.)
The maza is a set menu shared by two people. We’ve had a dinner similar to a maza before (it was at the aptly named Meze) and really enjoyed it – it’s a great way to be introduced to a restaurant’s menu. A little bit of almost everything is brought out as the starter and main courses and you can pick and nibble as you like.
Falafel and feta.
The starters came in little dishes – feta cubes in olive oil, hoummos, moutabbal, falafel and sambousik. The sambousik is a deep fried pastry stuffed with ground lamb. I’ve never had one before but I’d venture to say these had too tough a crust. Both the dips were good – the hoummos was particularly smooth and silky. The moutabbal (or baba ghannouj, eggplant dip) was coarse and smokey. The falafel had a green fluffy interior and a crunchy crust – a bit like the week-old kebab shop versions but this would be the greener, fresher cousin. The feta was fabulous – not salty nor stinky, the cubes were crumbly and waxy, soaked in fragrant herbs and olive oil.
Shish tawook and tabbouleh.
After the serving-then-splitting debacle, our mains were served. Almost every main at Elie’s is served with a mega helping of tabbouleh and so is the maza. Tabbouleh is basically a parsley, bulgur wheat and tomato salad. Every middle eastern eatery’s tabbouleh is slightly different (think of all the chopping!). The tabbouleh at Elie’s is quite coarse with sparse bits of tomato here and there. Make sure you buddy up with a (trustworthy) partner to check your teeth post tabbouleh gorging.
(If on a hot date, ask to swap it out for chips.)
The shish tawook (skewered chicken) would have been nice if it wasn’t overcooked. I struggled to finish my stick of stringy dry chicken. K had a totally different experience, his was juicy and flavoursome. To my relief, the shish kebab (skewered lamb) was cooked to a tender pink and had the taste of the grill on it. Not bad.
The last dish was the best – the seasoned rice. It was soft and impossibly fluffy. Lightly spiced with chunks of amazingly tender and soft lamb and chicken, the combination was mouthwatering. This sounds so clichéd… it was like eating clouds.
At about 8.30pm, the highlight of the night arrives – the bellydancer. As soon as the hypnotic music begins, she twirls, shimmies and spins, giving everyone a good view. There’s a lot of ogling and admiration – and that’s just from the girls!
Combining belly moves with back breaking flexibility and an alluring smile, the restaurant’s atmosphere changes instantly under her spell. Cheers, claps and whistles were getting louder and louder as she twisted around the room, coercing people to have a go. And in no time, strangers were dancing (and jiggling – not a good look for some) with each other and on tabletops. It was fun!
The bellydancer singlehandedly got the party started.
She made what would’ve been a ‘just okay’ dinner into a great one. It was worth the bad service and tough chicken. Such is the power of entertainment and atmosphere and the owners deserve credit for that. If you ever come here, ask to reserve one of the square tables – they seat group of ten people or more. You get to feast upon on low couches, cushions and rugs, and beneath the draped ceiling (the tent) it really looks very Lawrence of Arabia cool.
It’s hard to gauge Elie’s Tent without comparing it to The Prophet’s - it’s a close second. Here, the food is slightly inconsistent and somehow lacks the depth of flavour.
But give me that seasoned rice and the bellydancing, and I’ll be back in a flash.
Up’s: The seasoned rice is fantastic! The bellydancer – whatever you do, don’t miss her (Friday and Saturday nights, must book). Ask for the low tables.
Down’s: Patchy, un-coordinated service. Food is slightly inconsistent.
610 Albany Highway, Victoria Park WA 6100
T: (08) 9361 5175
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